Kamakura Upside Down

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Sunday. Where to begin… So many things happened in Kamakura after all. For instance, Haru ate a Buddha, President Obama visited an ice cream stand, and I… Komame…

KOMAME’S DISAPPEARED!!!

I know I shouldn’t have let him out of my sight, but, but…

How about I just start from the beginning?

So we got off the train at Kamakura Station, and walked on the broad path, Wakamiya Oji, leading up to the famous Tsurugaoka Hachimangu. It’s a big Shinto Shrine or Jinja (神社) in the area that you can’t miss. That’s when I realized Komame was missing!

I couldn’t remember when the last time I saw him was, since I was so excited the night before when Haru told me she was taking me to Kamakura with her friends.

I looked everywhere and couldn’t find him. I didn’t want to ask Haru if she knew, because she gave me Komame when I first came to live with her. Komame was – is my responsibility.

I tried not to show Haru I was upset, since she had been looking forward to the trip since earlier in the week when her friends asked her to join them. So I just watched quietly as they had fun drawing Omikuji (御神籤) or sacred slots.

It’s a Shinto fortune-telling method that’s really popular with visitors. You just buy a chance to draw from the bamboo box for a stick, which you exchange with the Miko (巫女), a shrine priestess, for a corresponding piece of paper with your fortune on it. Then you tie it to the Omikuji post and pray to the resident Kami (神), or resident nature god, to make it come true. If you don’t like it, you can still leave it with the Kami, and pray for it to not come true. You can also make wishes on wooden plaques and leave it there for the Kami to hear any personal wishes you’d like to make.

While Haru was taking pictures, her friend Yuan picked me up and brought her grape lollipop a little too close for comfort. It smelled really good, and was made of hardened grape syrup, glazed over a real grape. While I normally like sweets, I wasn’t in the mood to have anything since Komame was missing. I think that’s when Haru realized I wasn’t feeling well.

The next stop was visiting Kotoku-in temple, an old O-tera (お寺), or Buddhist temple to see Daibutsu-sama, Kamakura’s famous Great Buddha. He’s great, because he’s huge and super old. He’s also great because I felt cheered up seeing Daibutsu-sama’s gentle face. It was as if he was telling me everything would be okay.

And I know I’m short, but it also felt great knowing he dwarfed humans the way humans dwarfed me.

And did you know you could go INTO Daibutsu-sama? As in INSIDE of him. It was dark and crowded, but there was something about being inside that made me feel safe. Did you know he was made in 1252 AD during the Kamakura period? That’s over seven and a half centuries ago! He was cast in 30 separate stages and then slotted together using a very ingenious slotting method. Aside from reinforcing his neck with steel rods, he’s pretty much the same as he was back in the day.

Daibutsu-sama is so well loved that many little kids my age got together and created giant waraji (わらじ) for him to wear. I wish I could’ve helped!

After that visit, Haru and her friends when to a local dango stand to buy dango (団子) which is made of rice flour, related to mochi. It can be either sweet or savory, or both! Yuan bought some, but Toshi, Brittani, and Haru decided they wanted a Daibutsu-san manjyuu, which is basically soft waffle batter poured into a mold with some kind of filling inside. In Haru’s case, she got herself one with custard cream. Her expression was pure bliss as she chomped off Daibutsu-sama’s head.

And as if that weren’t enough, Haru and friends also went to get ice cream. It was a little shop they passed by earlier which caught their attention, because the sign said that President Obama had eaten there before. Yuan bought the ice cream named after Obama, while Haru bought the one that had sweet potato flavored ice cream in it.

We passed by this old red mail box, which seemed really old. It must have been somewhat important if the shop across the street had a miniature of it sitting on the windowsill.

 

Eventually, we meandered our way to Hasedera temple.

Toshi told us that it’s almost near impossible to visit in the spring with all the flowers blooming, because it was known for its Japanese gardens. Despite not seeing the gardens in full bloom, Hasedera is also well known for its seaside view of Kamakura… not to mention its array of cute statues. Their smiles are really contagious.

However, at the end of the day, I was so tired that all I could do was huddle into Haru’s scarf and fall asleep. I never did find Komame even after looking everywhere for him and turning the places we went to upside down. Perhaps he’ll show up one of these days when I least expect it… maybe that’s what Daibutsu-sama was telling me anyway.

Let’s hope,

Rowan

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